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Hichem Karoui: Radical rhetoric and hype
April 21, 2013
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Blasts in Boston: around 2:50 p.m., Apr 15, 2013.

The explosions took the lives of three spectators: 8-year-old Martin Richard, 23-year-old Lu Lingzi, and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell; 176 were injured. The explosions occurred several hours after a few of the marathon’s nearly 17,000 runners began crossing the finish line. The New York Times described the normally festive area of celebration and exhaustion as suddenly transformed into a war zone.

It is not the first time that the term war is used in depicting a terrorist operation. We recall how President Bush talked of war on America after 9/11, although war is an act related to states, while terrorism is related to individuals or marginal groups.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Boston Marathon bombing was carried out with kitchen pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails and other lethal shrapnel. Forensic evidence suggested the two explosive devices might have been inside heavy black nylon bags.

The suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old ethnic Chechen, was caught after an exchange of gunfire with police, on April 19. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, has been killed.

On April 18, the Tsarnaev brothers were identified after having robbed a convenience store in Cambridge, Mass., just three miles from Boston, hours earlier. A police officer, who responded to the robbery, was shot, killed, and found in his car by fellow responding officers. The two suspects later hijacked an SUV at gunpoint. Authorities later caught up to the suspects, and a car chase ensued. The tools used in making the bomb and the absence of any real escape plan made some analysts from Stratfor suggest that this is hardly the work of terrorists affiliated to an organisation (Al Qaeda or any other radical group). According to Stratfor, this issue is rather related to grassroots militancy, which is not the less dangerous, though.

The profiles of the Brothers Tsarnaev may also suggest such a description.

The Tsarnaev family fled Chechnya, in southeastern Europe, in 1994 because of conflict with Russia, and lived for a time in Central Asia (there is no agreement about where they lived: Kyrgyzstan, or Kazakhstan, Dagestan?). Many people fled to Central Asia during the First Chechen War of 1994 to 1996 and the Second Chechen War of 1999 to 2000.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s mother said to reporters that her eldest son got involved in religion about five years ago. He never, never told me he was on the side of jihad, she told CNN. The FBI confirmed that agents interviewed Tamerlan in 2011 at the request of a foreign government over suspected ties to an extremist group.

The brothers Tsarnaev have the features of many radicals: they feel uprooted, swim between two waters, not knowing to which age or which place they belong, use technology and new gadgets, even social media etc.

According to The National Post, Tamerlan Tsarnaev appears to have run a YouTube channel showing interest in radical Islam. He promoted videos of Feiz Mohammad, an Australian former boxer turned radical Muslim preacher who asks that children be raised as jihadists, saying: Put in their soft, tender hearts the zeal of jihad and a love of martyrdom.

In his “Islam” playlist, reports SITE Intelligence Group, Tamerlan placed videos, among which an English-language production called, The Emergence of Prophecy: The Black Flags from Khorasan, promotes the final prophecy of Islam coming from the Afghan-Pakistan region. On the top-tier jihadist forum Shumukh al-Islam, jihadists noted Tamerlan liking this video and believed it demonstrated his faith in Islam.

According to SITE, his young brother, Djohar was tweeting. Among the 104 accounts Djohar followed is “Ghuraba,” meaning Stranger. “Ghuraba” indicated he lives in the West, and advocated readers to listen to an audio series by now-deceased radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, saying that they will gain an unbelievable amount of knowledge.

On April 15 (the same day of the blasts), Djohar posted, Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people. The following day, as authorities were scouring surveillance footage from the scene of the attack looking for clues about the perpetrator or perpetrators, he posted: There are people that know the truth but stay silent & there are people that speak the truth but we don’t hear them cuz they’re the minority.

Jeffrey Goldberg quotes in Bloomberg, The Boston Globe saying, The attack truncated the world’s most prestigious road race, which draws runners from across the globe, and will forever mar what is annually the city’s most uplifting day: Marathon Monday. In his eyes, In Boston Attack, the Best Response Is Resiliency.

In the March/April 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Stephen E. Flynn said, During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear weapons placed the fate of millions in the hands of a few. But responding to today’s challenges, the threats of terrorism and natural disasters, requires the broad engagement of civil society. In his view, resilience has been a national strength of the USA throughout history. Flynn is certainly right in considering the problem of terrorism as that of the civil society, and not only that of the military, or the government. Nevertheless, as he pointed out, the USA is not just facing the loss of innocent lives. A climate of fear and a sense of powerlessness in the face of adversity are undermining faith in American ideals and fuelling political demagoguery.

How would the US bolster the resilience of society, with the kind of demagogic discourse still prevailing on an important part of the mainstream media?

For nearly 20 hours, the New York Post reported that 12 people had died in the Boston bombings, when in fact it was three. When they changed the number, they issued no correction, observed Eric Boehlert, a Senior Fellow for Media Matters.

Shortly following the bombings, WND columnist and occasional Fox News guest Erik Rush tweeted: Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon!

On the spur of the moment, a Saudi student has been suspected.

The Post prompted Fox News Fox & Friends morning crew to hype a hollow story, with co-host Brian Kilmeade drumming up suspicion about the Saudi student:

KILMEADE: This Saudi national that is a person of interest in the hospital right now who we’ve gone through his apartment. How unusual is it for the bomber, who is not a homicide bomber, to be a victim? Evidently, he had burns on him and smelled like gunpowder. What does that make you conclude?

Pat Robertson appeared to blame Muslims for the bombings during his April 16 programme by attacking Islam, commenting, Don’t talk to me about ‘religion of peace,’ no way. Robertson has previously termed Islam both a “violent religion” and a worldwide political movement [bent] on domination of the world. He has urged Muslims to be treated as we would members of the Communist Party.

Is it with such paranoid-hateful discourse that the US society would be resilient?

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The author is an expert in US-Middle East
relations at the Arab Center for Research
and Policy Studies (Doha Institute)
 

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